What is Zen?

Zen is an awakening to the dynamic reality of the present moment. In Zen practice, we meditate to bring calm and attentive focus on “right here, right now.” Through meditation practice, we grow increasingly able to live our lives in the present moment throughout the day.

Zen is a spiritual path, a path of inter-connection, of seeing through all duality that separates “me” from “other,” of living the awareness that there is no separation. The practice of Zen is life itself, embodying radical inquiry into the true nature of the Self and the true nature of reality. To practice Zen meditation is in itself an expression of this reality, an embodiment of the awakened state.

Zen meditation develops a centered, focused awareness, integrating body and mind into the heart of life itself. In zazen (seated silent meditation), we assume a posture of dynamic relaxation and experience fully the natural, relaxed flow of the breath as the mind’s attention comes to the present moment.

Zen practice grew from the initial experience of the enlightenment (awakening) of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha (the awakened one), 2500 years ago. The practices and teachings of the Buddha spread from India to China where they picked up influences from Taoism. Taoist influenced Buddhism came to Japan as “Zen” – which is the Japanese translation of the Sanskrit word “dhyana” which means meditation. The emphasis in Zen is on meditation rather than study of sutras. The tradition followed at Dancing Crane Zen Center combines aspects of the two main Japanese Zen traditions: Soto and Rinzai.

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